Ever wonder what publishers look for in a photobook proposal? Want to hear about the behind-the-scenes thought that goes into designing Overlapse books? Unsure of the difference between a zine and a photobook? Overlapse founder and publisher Tiffany Jones answers your burning questions, previously collected via Instagram.
Tiffany founded Overlapse in 2015, and her background is in photojournalism, media and publishing. She researched the market for photobooks for her MA Publishing dissertation, ‘Dynamics of the Photobook Market’ (Oxford Brookes, 2016).
Q: How can we publish our work with Overlapse?
A: Overlapse book releases are a selection curated by the publisher. Over a year I view around a thousand projects through research, submissions, portfolio reviews and as a juror with a few worthwhile awards (usually free to enter).
Make your very best work, with serious commitment, and get it seen! As a small publisher we can only publish a few books each year so your project should be culturally relevant and ideally unforgettable!
Q: What do you look for in a project you want to publish?
A: A diverse range of subjects and voices. Work that is more that aesthetically or technically brilliant, that has potential to resonate over time–say 100 years!–to communicate stories with the future. Multi-layered projects that consider past, present and future in their making. Topics that are relevant in society–cultural, psychological, political, environmental…
Q: Are there any specific things you look for in book proposals?
A: Clear signs a photographer/artist has done research to understand the position of Overlapse publications and is considerate of the time it takes to review a multitude of different projects. Diligence in sharing a careful presentation that is as informative as possible, ie. an overview of images and other materials like text, illustration, archives available to work with to develop a deeper story. Concern for the end result being a work of communication rather than a vanity project. That’s a fine start!
Q: What is the best way to approach publishers to get your name out there and work sold?
A: Have a professional attitude when making initial contact, with the understanding that publishers receive numerous emails daily and can’t always respond–even to those with outstanding proposals. Share research you’ve done about the potential for distributing your work to different audiences, be well-organised and persistent without being rude. Send a polite and thorough email showing a proposal that is memorable and can’t be ignored. There is no sure-fire prescription for making sales, however!
Q: What’s your philosophy behind designing books?
A: I like to think of Overlapse books as ‘visual literature’–crossing genres with written books that form a new world in the imagination of the reader. I always think of the audience, and as editor and publisher, act as a bridge between photographers/artists and the reader. How does the finished book feel, smell, or trigger the senses to produce a psychological or emotional impact? Does the final, physical object ‘belong’ in the place where the work was created?
Q: How do you select papers? This seems daunting and endless in possibilities.
A: Get to know all the paper types possible (coated, uncoated, specialty, recycled, virgin, sustainable, etc.), collect sample swatches from different brands and paper mills, and find out what papers are used in your favourite books. Use papers that produce sensations that are psychologically relevant to the images and story you are working with. Remember that a book is not an exhibition, so be flexible with reproduction ‘quality’ of different paper surfaces–eg. newsprint versus high goss. Test print if you can, be brave and stretch your imagination!
Q: Generally will you be reluctant to take on a project that has already been fully designed by the artist?
A: If you have designed and produced a dummy it’s absolutely fine to show how you might visualise the final work, but understand that a publisher generally knows their audience and will likely want to direct or oversee final designs. Brilliant design can’t be disputed, though! If you have a finished design that you are sure of or rigid about, perhaps you might consider self-publishing?
Q: Where is the threshold between a zine and a self published book?
A: Zines are far less expensive to produce than offset-printed books and can be printed on demand. How many copies could you potentially sell? For offset printing, the costs are too high for 350 copies or less. Try not to produce so many copies that may never be sold. With digital printing (particularly on HP Indigo presses) you can make extraordinary, beautiful works from just a single copy (including if you bind as hardcover).
Q: What photobooks inspired you to make your own?
A: So many books have triggered excitement! A few that quickly come to mind: This Mountain Collapsed and Became a Bridge by Alex Dorfsman (RM, 2012) for its delightful, organic sequencing journey; Dalston Academy by Lorenzo Vitturi (Self Publish, Be Happy, 2013), a project created locally to where I live in London, for its energy, imagination and gorgeous production; and Redheaded Peckerwood by Christian Patterson (MACK, 2011), an infamous classic for its brilliant mix of images, storytelling and archival materials.